Cultural Commitment: The Story Behind ‘Our Culture’ and The Men Who Walk Through Time
‘Our Culture’ is pretty hard to describe in a couple of sentences. When I first tried to find out more about this Scandinavian collective I was struck by the simple task to even find one particular right word to define them. It is a blog, an online magazine, a brand or maybe more than that? If you dig deep in the archive of ‘Our Culture’ you will find articles centered around exploring the Scandinavian nature and facing all kinds of natural conditions, interviews with a lot of designers, icons, shop owners, legends and a lot of insights about brands and garments that will protect you against all the conditions above with smart and functional design. There are a lot of football culture centered write-ups directly from the heart of the scene without holding back against modern football and its poison for the culture.
At the same time you will find articles about their collaborations with brands such as NEMEN, an Italian perfectionist brand whose recent ACRONYM collaboration technical outerwear lovers would kill for. There is a long list of impressive work, outerwear gear and accessories ‘Our Culture’ released over the last couple of years. All this topped by a collaboration with another Italian brand - by the same Italian genius - called PLURIMUS and their collaborative product “the Northlander”.
Together with PLURIMUS they released a jacket entirely manufactured in Italy using the best fabrics to produce the best garments and outdoor gear. The entire jacket and its camo pattern is a homage to Sweden, the nordic countries and their geographic borders and real life conditions you will find there.
And the story is not over here - exactly one year after this project the Northlander rose again with PLURIMUS and ‘Our Culture’ presenting their second collaboration - a Fishtail Parka in waxed cotton 250 grams which has been dyed in Orange, over-printed and finally waxed. Again entirely manufactured in Italy, again another stunning project and product.
So what exactly is ‘Our Culture’ and how did they manage to work together with some of the best brands connoisseurs worldwide could think of? There are a lot of amazing and really thought through articles about garments, football, jackets, real outdoor conditions and interesting characters. At the same time there are products together with brands, shops and other collectives that will make a Highsnobiety x Carhartt collaboration look like some child's play. Still ‘Our Culture’ managed to stay a subcultural hub for like-minded people all over Europe, more than that, even all over the world. A picture perfect project that could easily be a blueprint for how I would love to see Biancissimo once and a story I had to learn more about.
To find out more about ‘Our Culture’ and their history, future, their projects and ideals I talked to the collective and found answers, insights and culture:
Cultural Commitment: The Story behind ‘Our Culture’ and The Men Who Walk Through Time
Hi ‘Our Culture’ and welcome to Biancissimo. Can you please explain the concept of ‘Our Culture’ to us and introduce the team behind it?
We are five men from Stockholm who met each other through a time span of 15-20 years. It is a good first question. The five of us, the foundation of the dots being connected absolutely came through football… going on away games together, drinking etc. Cliché I guess but that is how it all began. The five of us are in the age span of 35-44, would say there are circumstances within that that make our journey… perhaps not unique in our camaraderie, but unique in regards to what we are doing with Our Culture. And it is coming from a world that was very much analog. We met through real-life events, face to face, going to football, going on away games together, hanging out at a local boozer, going to shows etc. This is the background of all of us, even before we met. Coming from scenes outside of football and before it too, that demanded a physical involvement and participation… running a record shop, various sub-cultures. Like most people our age, involved with this ”thing” we were involved with things we find interesting till this day… but before the mighty internet. It is all this combined that kind of defines the foundation we stand on – Star Wars in the late 70s and early 80s, collecting football cards, good music when it was still dangerous, sportswear in the 80s and 90s. Also, sub-cultural contexts that had an element of uncertainty and danger to them (don’t they all?). Lasting factor… in whatever it was that we did, even before becoming friends… it was always the phenomenon that went hand in hand with style, brands, and looks. Be it a uniform or individuality … style has been a red thread throughout our journey, both individually and as a group.
Our Culture is not really a concept because it came out of something we created out of our friendship, but a physical expression of things we loved and still love, stuff we found interesting and wanted to share with likeminded people. It has since the beginning also become a bit of an organism (we are fully aware of how douchy that sounds). But it is hard to think of a better term that involves both the bonds of friendship and creating something static like a parka or a hat, hopefully, the friendship shows. It started with our friendship, not just between us five but also within the network of people that kind of became one with us over the last 10 years. So we collaborate and make textiles, t-shirts, outerwear, knives, hats… but what happens on a journey this long is that life happens too – for good and bad. Life, death, marriage, kids, hopelessness, and hope again. Life and it's weird strange turns have a tendency of building strong bonds between people and groups of people that go through good and the bad together. There have been times when it was plenty to chew… too much looking back, but we came out on top and we are still here and we are still creating things that we felt were missing or just obsess about wearing ourselves. It is our culture. It is ours.
I found some pretty old articles in your archive and realized you have been publishing and writing already for a very long time. Can you please tell us more about your first days and how the scene and ‘Our Culture’ changed over the time?
As for content and what we are into… time has kind of been standing still. It has been over 10 years but it’s the same things now that make us tick. Our journey started out of enthusiasm, passion and a bit of “stick it to the man” without becoming reactionary. The first stuff… like the big piece on the North Pacific Outdoor revolution, it speaks just as loud to us now. All of it does. We are proud of all the work along the way… whatever it was: Nemen, 6876, Contre le football Moderne, the limited pocket knife… there are just too many projects and pieces to puzzle together in one interview – but whatever it has been, it has been something that represented and still represents what we are about. What does that come from? Age maybe. Old men too set in their ways – we like what we do and we do what we like.
It’s actually super crazy looking at your history of collaborations you did over the time. Owning a Nemen x Acronym jacket is a grail for many young people today and you can look back and see an actual coat that you did together with the brand. Can you tell us a little bit how you realized those projects and what did it mean for you back then?
Mention this further down in the interview, but we have known Fabio for a long time. Believe the Our Culture X Nemen parka was the first collaboration Nemen did. We had great fun. Boils down to the people behind it for Our Culture. We share his vision and we understand him. Two cultures, the Bologna mindset and the Scandinavian meet and create. Some ideas are mutual and some collide in a good way. When you look at Fabio's history, like the timeline of his work, whether you like everything or not – his dedication and drive lives in everything he creates. We admire that so much. So for us, it was never about working with Nemen or Plurimus, as much as we like both brands – but it was about working with our dear creative friend Fabio that we love and respect.
‘Our Culture’ not only seems to present your culture, it also seems like you’re defending your culture from impacts from the outer world. So can you please define your culture to us and tell us who are the people that are part of that culture and what are the influences you try to protect it from?
Well, Our Culture is our story… life through a nordic lens. A Nordic melancholy that sprung out of isolation and four strong seasons. It is our story… and quite frankly the only story we can tell. You can move wherever you want but your heritage and the factors that shaped you will remain with you. 10 years ago we would have said that our main irritation came from big businesses vacuuming our scenes for a quick buck. What we have experienced the last 5-6 years is cannibalism and shocking behaviors from small labels and groups of people. People stealing ideas and designs are flattering someone said, first time maybe… but not when it happens time and time again. Just because you buy records you should not start a band. If a brand can’t create anything without copying others… perhaps it’s time to call it quits before it gets too embarrassing and scandalous.
What role do garments, clobber, technical clothing and all the other lovely inventions play in your everyday life and culture?
Still a lot but there is a time and place for everything. It is a bug you cannot really shake once it bit you. But don’t let jackets and shoes stand in the way of adventure. Don’t let your wardrobe become a museum. Wear it, tear it and be proud of it. Take for instance Stone Island. So many fabrics they have used were made for heavy wear over the time… meaning that the jacket would not get its soul till a couple of years of wearing it out and about. That is beautiful. Now there seems to be this scene where things are bought, barely worn and passed on almost right away. It kind of defeats the purpose. We are five guys with five different outlooks on things… but as the saying goes ”find the job/passion that you love and let it kill you”… the same thing should go for your holy grail. Wear it until it’s killed and then save it for nostalgic reasons.
I really do love that point of view and nowadays it’s hard to find a voice or medium that passes this way of understanding the craftsmanship behind a jacket or design to the young generation. Are you afraid that too many of the proper ways of respecting and wearing those brands will be lost in the future?
Our thing or our scene means different things to different people. Always did. So even within our ranks so to speak… there is not really one way of looking at things. There is that click of people that will move jackets and shoes almost immediately after getting their hands on them, and there are others who continue to wear everything but never get rid of anything. Unless you're rich, sometimes the ability to get something you want will demand a few sales, that is understandable – we have all done it. But it should not be the case every time.
Life and progress are not linear – things move in circles. Right now we live in the age of social media and 'fast fast fast'. There is a new generation of streetwear, dare I say enthusiasts who live their lives on Instagram. The life-span of their purchases are as long as the news worth of their insta posts. Good luck to them. But it is not what we are about. Pieces of clothes – jackets, hats, shoes, bags and even sweatshirts don’t come to life until you have given them some history yourself. And to us… that history does not lay in Instagram. If an 18 year old kid falls in love with something we made… 10 years from now I would like him to look back and go, ahh this is was when I studied and fell in love and had my heart broken at the library, this is scratch on the frame comes from the time when that taxi driver tried to cut me, this was the only jacket I brought when I went to Argentina in the winter and got lost in the mountains. You understand? It’s a sad state if the only thing things boil down to is hashtags and bragging. Expensive clothes deserve more… but first and foremost, life deserves more. This kid deserves more. I wish to think that we resonate with individuals that read the whole book – especially in a time when too many people jump to the summary.
When did you actually start to sell merchandise and when did this all become a real brand?
We started pretty much right away. Writing followed by t-shirts and hats in a time span of maybe a couple weeks.
Can you please name us some of your favorite designs and projects? They don’t need to be put in order, just a walk down the memory lane!
It was a great journey doing the super thick hooded sweatshirt. Sounds easy-peasy but it is not. If you have followed the history of for instance Champion, for years and years the heavy reverse weave hoodies were hard to come by. Quality was not very good. If you wanted that quality heavy thickness and material… it was either flea markets, vintage shops or eBay. Heavy hooded sweatshirts of the 80s and early 90s are what we grew up with and it resonates with us – SSD, Graffiti culture, old Italian terrace culture and also the late 80s youth crew – strong looks for strong frames. So we began looking, proper detective work that led us to plenty of dead ends… but eventually to a suburb of Toronto and Roopa Knitting Mills LMT. Mikael of Our Culture lived in New York at the time which made the communication easier with them. They were fantastic to deal with – just one of those small businesses that you wish the very best and that they will be around forever. The end result came out just the way we wanted… and those thick hoodies will look just the same in 20 years. They just glow and get even prettier with more wear, more use, more washes.
We are old supporters of Kenneth and 6876. Working with him and CC was great fun too. Putting your name on the iconic Capandula was inspiring. 100% made in England in small quantities.
We recently created a form of pop up store/gathering in Stockholm where Our Culture gems were mixed up with great stuff from our own wardrobes. A fun thing to do in this digital age. People came out and traveled for it, interacting, new friends and old – that was a project alone and we had a great time. It is important to do things like that too – puts things in perspective and ads context.
So let’s talk about your newest project with Plurimus! Can you please tell us something about The Northlander and the whole idea and inspiration?
All five of us have a long relationship with camouflage… like so many people our age do. Then with The Northlander, we wanted to create something super nordic, but without writing just that on a t-shirt. Taking the outlines/borders of the Nordic countries, and turning them into a pattern made great sense. Without nerding out about patterns, it was also very helpful that the shapes of the Nordic countries look the way they do, there was a lot of puzzling to do. It took a lot of time but the outcome was fantastic. The somewhat philosophical post we made also makes perfect sense:
There is a huge power in the ink on a brown piece of paper that marks a border, and the very impact it must have had on the people living right by that border, there and then. Dramatic changes that could have been the difference between life and death. That maps and borders of our homelands have been rewritten plenty of times. Finland belonged to Sweden for hundreds of years, parts of Sweden belonged to Denmark for a long time, Norway belonged to Denmark for hundreds of years only to belong to Sweden as the time pushed forward. We like to think of the world as something static, but clearly, it is not.
The Northlander represents us and our time here. This is here and now. The borders we’ve grown up with. Our map. Our Culture. Our ink on the paper that obviously has affected us. The borders as they stand now.”
With the Northlander II you continue this journey with an outstanding Fishtail parka. Can you please give us a little more information on that piece? How did it feel to add another piece to that story?
The first Northlander came out exactly how we wanted it to. Like the vision became reality. It sounds pretentious maybe… but anyone involved with anything remotely creative and anyone who works with anything creative will know that there are nine times out of ten lots and lots of compromise along the way when you push an idea from A to B. That was never the case with the Northlander. Fabio and we saw the same thing. With us working with the Scandinavian camouflage for so long, we created a family of seasonal color combinations. Northlander I came out perfect and this time around, Fabio and we loved the idea of a longer fishtail with a new family member of the pattern. Fabio and Plurimus spent a lot of time working out the details, from zippers, pockets, hood and everything in between to make it solid and timeless.
You now already worked together a couple of times with Fabio Cavina - the founder of Plurimus, Nemen and the 12th man. Can you tell us a little bit about the process and how you get things done together?
Our relationship with Fabio goes back to a time even before his brands and before we started doing stuff with Our Culture – goes back to a time before social media and even before FoundNYC haha. We met Fabio at the days of the Casual Exiles forum. Fabio carries that old Italian eye for detail when it comes to textiles. His visions live in a place that we like and admire – film, futurism mixed with vintage, new fabrics, new ways of looking at the autonomy of a piece of clothing. I think a man like Massimo Osti would look at Fabio and feel… here is a man carrying on the torch, just the way I would have wanted it to be carried.
The Our Culture Nemen jacket was the first collaboration Fabio ever did with Nemen. With the Northlander we spent months and months creating the camouflage back home in Stockholm. Not only the actual pattern… but what it would represent and what life it would live on it’s own. Fabio started working on the frame and what kind of pieces it would work the best with. It landed in the first Northlander, the heavy overshirt, and the bag. Came out absolutely fantastic.
What can we expect from you guys in the future. Is there still a wishlist of things you want to do and create?
Great question. There is still loads and loads. Right here and now we are once again moving towards colder months. Some quality warm hats would be an interesting world to dig into… We did hats made in Gotland in 2007 or 2008 but they were super limited. There is plenty to do in that field that has not been touched. With the amount of traveling that we do within Our Culture, both private and in work… there is a lot to do as for bags and accessories. As long as there is purpose that resonate with us the spark will be lit. It does not have to make the world spin… like it says in our manifest:
This is style with function because design plain and simple serves no purpose.